To answer the prevailing questions that hit my inbox in response to last week’s column: No, my 52-25-1 record with NFL win-total recommendations the last three years isn’t bullshit (how dare you!); and, yes, I’m aware the law of averages suggest that by season’s end I’ll be challenging Amanda Bynes for “Train Wreck of the Year” honors. But that train won’t fire up its engines until next month, when I release my official 2013 recommendations. For now, let’s analyze William Hill’s NFC win-total numbers.
Cowboys (8½): What do you get for producing consecutive 8-8 seasons? If you’re Tony Romo, you get a six-year, $108 million contract. Now that I know the going rate for mediocrity, I need to send Jerry Jones my résumé, stat. (In fairness, Dallas has never had a losing record in Romo’s six healthy seasons as a starter.)
Eagles (7½): Philadelphia’s victory totals from 2009-12: 11, 10, 8 and 4. I believe that’s called regression. Interesting tidbit: The Eagles lost more games last year (12) than new coach Chip Kelly lost in his four seasons at Oregon (7).
Giants (9): Like the Cowboys and Romo, New York hasn’t had a losing season in Eli Manning’s eight years on the job; however, the G-men have won more than nine games just once since 2008.
Redskins (8): When will Robert Griffin III be on the field, and how long will he stay upright? Hard to say at this point. But here’s what I know: Washington (10-6 last year) hasn’t won nine-plus games in consecutive seasons since Bill Clinton was in office … in Arkansas (1991-92).
Bears (8½): Last year, Chicago (10-6) was one of 13 squads to finish with double-digit victories, yet the only one not to make the postseason. See, even God thinks Jay Cutler is a prick.
Lions (7½): Did Detroit grossly underachieve last year when it went 4-12 and fell far short of its projected 9½-win total? Or did the Lions grossly overachieve in 2011, when they went 10-6, their only non-losing season since 2000?
Packers (10½): Good news: Green Bay has posted double-digit victories each of the last four years. Bad news: In their near century-long history, the Packers have posted five straight double-digit win seasons exactly … never.
Vikings (7½): Minnesota’s 10 victories last year were against opponents that finished a combined 14 games under .500, while its six losses were against teams that finished 24 games over .500. The password is “fluke.”
Buccaneers (7½): From 9-7 to 3-13 to 10-6 to 4-12 to 7-9—indeed, the last five years have been an E-ticket ride for Tampa Bay. On the bright side, the Bucs haven’t had three straight losing campaigns since a 14-year stretch of futility from 1983-96.
Falcons (10½): A 13-3 record and No. 1 seed are supposed to yield a brutal schedule the following year. Yet the Falcons, who are 36-12 the last three years, face just five 2012 playoff teams (with three of those games at home).
Saints (9½): With Sean Payton on the sideline from 2009-11, the Saints went 13-3, 11-5 and 13-3. With Payton in a season-long timeout last year, the Saints went 7-9—then promptly gave Payton a $38 million contract extension. Looks like a year of doing nothing paid off. (In related news, Payton’s Vegas DJ residency begins next week.)
Panthers (7½): Those who believe in positive momentum should note that Carolina started 2-8 last year and closed 5-1, averaging 28.8 points per game after Thanksgiving.
Cardinals (5½): Those who believe in negative momentum should note that Arizona started 4-0 last year and closed 1-11, averaging 11 ppg in those losses. But, hey, here comes Carson Palmer to the rescue!
49ers (11½): So much for the old “Super Bowl loser letdown” theory: The last five teams to come up short in the Big One have bounced back to win 12, 12, 10, 10 and 11 games the following season.
Rams (7½): I love coach Jeff Fisher. I also love the upgrades St. Louis made in the offseason. I don’t love the Rams’ schedule, which features 10 games against the 49ers (twice), Seahawks (twice), Falcons, Cowboys, Texans, Colts, Bears and Saints.
Seahawks (10½): Pete Carroll and the Seahawks won more than 10 games last year (11, to be exact). Pete Carroll and the Seahawks have never won more than 10 games in consecutive NFL seasons. Consider selling your Pete Carroll/Seahawks stock.